Professor Fiona Stanely AC joined this session via Zoom. And even from her home office, she had our audience hanging off her every word.

She and fellow panellist Mike Salvaris, from the University of Melbourne, have been working on measuring well-being instead of GDP since the 2000s, and are excited it is now high on the agenda for governments at both national and state levels in Australia.   
 
Professor Stanley explained the excessive focus on GDP has a variety of negative social impacts - it increases inequalities in power and wealth and causes overconsumption -  creating waste, environmental degradation, unliveable cities and pollution, to name a few.
 
As an alternative to measuring GDP, Mike Salvaris pointed to the National Development Index (ANDI) Project, which identifies, measures and reports on 12 key areas of community importance and progress. He also shared the proposed ‘best practice’ WA Development Index (WADI).
 
In a recent survey in Australia, people were asked, ‘What is the primary purpose of government?’ ‘Improving the overall wellbeing of the population’ was the highest response (32%). By listening to and engaging with our communities, Professor Stanley believes it will strengthen people's trust in democracy. 
 
WALGA was acknowledged as being a leader in this field and produced the Local Government Metrics of Wellbeing Research Report in 2021. WALGA is a principal partner in the WADI project.
 
Beat Huser joined the conversation and shared his work with wellbeing indices in New Zealand, specifically in the Waikato region, through the Waikato Regional Council. The 32 Waikato Progress indicators are annually reported, with a quality-of-life survey done bi-annually. The wellness data has primarily been used for strategic planning, project development and funding applications.
 
During the Q+A session, the panel acknowledged there is so much siloed data in Local Government that is kept internally and not shared.  But the data collected is often reflective of common insights broadly and the WADI project will allow for data to be collected and shared for everyone's benefit. 
 
“We have good data in WA, and it can help Local Governments decide where to get best bang for your buck." - Professor Fiona Stanley AC.
 
Utilising wellbeing data assists Local Governments in their strategic planning, to make informed policy decisions and to advocate to other spheres of government on behalf of their community.

The final word: “If we measure progress by GDP, doesn’t that mean “life = shopping?” – Mike Salvaris
 

Download Fiona Stanley's
Presentation

Download Beat Huser's 
Presentation

Download Mike Salvaris' 
Presentation